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Why is it important to write in clear and concise prose?

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Julianne Hansen, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from Clemson University


calendarEducator since 2019

write1,924 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

In all types of writing, it is important to keep the audience and purpose in mind when evaluating "clear and concise," so that is worth noting first. What is a "clear and concise" piece of historical fiction about World War II written for second graders looks quite different from "clear and concise" works in the same category written for high school students. It's also important to consider the depth of knowledge of the target audience when writing, as that will determine how concise one should be.

Clear writing aids in comprehension. Readers will give up quickly if the story just doesn't make sense. There are several ways that meaning is lost through unclear writing:

  • Poor grammar
  • Too little detail
  • Sentences that are ambiguous or overly long
  • A lack of coherent organization
  • Word choice that is overly complex or overly simplistic for the target audience
  • A wandering or shifting focus
  • Assuming too great a level of background knowledge from readers

There is a sweet spot of concision in prose. On one hand, it's important that you convey all needed information. Almost everyone has had the experience of reading an email or text and then being lost regarding what the sender is asking him or her to do. So providing all key information is crucial, but readers also don't want to be bogged down in those details. It's important to avoid repetition and to keep sentences clean. Here are some ways to keep your writing concise:

  • Don't use phrases like "obviously" or "needless to say" as they generally weaken the main point (The reader is left wondering why it is worth mentioning if it's so obvious) and take up more space.
  • Don't use empty and bland modifiers.
  • Avoid lists of modifiers in descriptions and instead choose one strong modifier.

Knowing the stylistic choices to make as a writer depends a great deal on knowing the target audience and its needs.

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marypmc eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7 answers

starTop subjects are Social Sciences, Math, and Literature

Using clear and concise prose helps a writer communicate his or her message efficiently and with impact.   Careful and thoughtful word choice is an important factor in making sure that text remains on topic and sustains the readers attention.  Writing that it is vague or repetitive is ineffective.  It can interfere with the intended meaning or message in the text, and it can cause a reader to lose interest and focus on the information or position being presented.  Clear, concise prose is easy to understand and conveys that the author understands his or her audience. 

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write15,968 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

It is important to write in clear and concise prose for two main reasons: to keep our reader's attention and to make sure our meaning is clear.

If your writing is long-winded instead of concise, and you just go on and on instead of keeping it short and sweet, you will bore or confuse your reader.  Keeping things simple keeps your meaning clear, and keeps your reader involved and motivated.  There are also times when you are writing to inform, and a person does not want to read a long, flowery answer.  For example, when we write enotes responses we try to keep them to around 90 words.  The idea is to tell the questioner what you need to know as simply and concisely as possible so you get the answer and be on your way!

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